Ben Millburn on Strange Love & Consequence

A Louisiana soul meets Austin rock and roll in Ben Millburn. Millburn spent all of his life in a conservative and religious environment in South Louisiana before following the sounds of the guitars to Austin, Texas. Ben attended catholic school for thirteen years and spent most of his life headed down a traditional path. However, a recurring dream that he experienced for over ten years shifted his course and brought him to his debut EP, Strange Love & Consequence.
Several times a year Ben would have a dream that left him with questions – each time he would see someone looking for him but his feet would remain frozen and he would be unable to reach her. After years of thinking about this dream he wrote a song about it. Ben describes the writing of the song as “one that just kind of came out fully formed. I started playing it and after the first pass through it was essentially complete.” That song, “Don’t You Wait,” is the first track off of the EP.
Writing “Don’t You Wait” opened something in Ben as he began to write dozens of songs while living in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He recorded some of these songs in a combination of home and studio recordings in Baton Rouge, but the sound eventually took him to Austin to complete the record. Ben worked with engineer Brad Bell to mix the album at Jim Eno from Spoon’s Public HiFi in Austin. Ben wrote and produced the record in addition to singing and playing bass and acoustic and electric guitar.

Strange Love & Consequence is the first of a two part EP series called The Balance EPs. This first EP is a collection of lushly arranged rock and roll songs with big drums and big guitars, yet centered around carefully crafted pop changes, melodies, and harmonies. This EP will be followed by part two of The Balance EPs: Local Honey. Local Honey contains songs, which, at their core, are similar to those on Strange Love & Consequence. However, Ben approached them in quite the opposite way. Local Honey contains a similar emphasis on melody and harmony, but the music and production is stripped down and raw, making The Balance EPs an exercise in duality.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Millburn to discuss the first EP, which hits the streets December 11 via Sunglass Moustache.
When did you first begin writing the material for Strange Love & Consequence?
I wrote the first song “Don’t You Wait” several years ago. At the time I did not really play guitar, but I knew a couple of chords and I wrote the song one night. I liked it enough that I figured that I should learn how to play guitar a little better and sing a little bit. The other songs on the record are three more from a pretty large batch of songs that I wrote in the time between writing “Don’t You Wait” and the recording of the album. I started listening to a lot of music that was playing in my house when I grew up, which was a lot of ’50s and early ’60s rock and roll. I also started to listen to the stuff that I was listening to upstairs while my dad was listening to the ’50s and ’60s stuff downstairs. I was a kid in the ’90s so it was a lot of that early ’90s guitar stuff. So the music on the record is a combination of those two things.
We’re told this is the first of a two-part series. When can we expect Local Honey to be released?
Right now the plan for Local Honey is sometime in late spring but the songs are already recorded.
How will that one differ from Strange Love & Consequence?
The songs on the two records were pretty similar when I wrote them as I wrote all of them on guitar. The two EPs, collectively, kind of represent duality. One is lush and more aggressive while the other is laid back and sparse. We arranged Strange Love & Consequence with big drums and a lot of guitars.  After I finished those I wanted to balance them out with arrangements that are closer to what they are when they are first written. Most of them are the first take of just my guitar and Ashley and I’s vocals which we recorded with Brad Bell at Jim Eno’s Public HiFi in Austin. Lyrically Strange Love & Consequence and Local Honey kind of mirror each other as well. The four tracks on each EP correspond to the similarly numbered track on the other EP in what the lyrics refer to. They are different approaches to the same things.
What prompted the move from Baton Rouge to Austin, Texas? Do you have any affinity towards the music scenes in Louisiana (the Ruston Elephant 6 sounds, New Orleans, etc) and Austin?
The move to Austin was prompted mainly by the music and a girl. The music in Louisiana is great, but the music in Austin has always been something that attracted me. I was going to mix Strange Love & Consequence in Austin and I was kind of ready for a change in general so it made sense. I like the tacos and the girl is still around so I guess it worked out. As far as Louisiana music goes I would say I have a relationship with New Orleans music and the Elephant 6 guys. I lived in New Orleans for several years and wrote some of the songs on Strange Love & Consequence while I was living there. It is not really directly inspired by New Orleans music but I have been surrounded by that stuff my entire life so I am sure it has seeped in somewhere. Lyrically, the songs are about that time period of living in New Orleans. I do not know the Elephant 6 guys or anything but I definitely listened to the music. It was great to find out that the guys making these cool records were from a town in Louisiana smaller than the one I was from. It made me think that I could try to do something as well.
Do you have any plans to tour the U.S. this winter?
We are doing some stuff close to home this month then we will be trying to get out a little bit a in a couple of months.
(Visit Millburn here: